An Interesting Fact

“Consider Sweden, which offers the most reliable historic records. In 1800, life expectancy at birth was 33 years for women and 31 years for men; today it is 83.5 years and 79.5 years, respectively. In both cases, women live about 5% longer than men.”

Just goes to show – the more things change, the more they stay the same. On another level – at my current age (76 years) I have live 2.3 times longer than a Swedish male in the 1800s and I am still not finished yet.

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YouTube Pick (#14) – Nostalgia

Every body has memories that float to the surface from time to time. A lot of people have fond memories of their  high school and college years,  and a million other times that are filled with many pleasant memories. Nostagia has become a great marketing tool and the market place is rife with commercial attempts make money from the emotion. Just stop for a minute and think of the popularity of classic rock, the numerous tribute bands and fading rock stars on their last, and final, farewell tour. I am not immune to the emotion but my favorite nostalgic musical  memory has nothing to do with the pop music of my youth. Rather it concerns a particular memory from the time of my immigration to Canada. In 1971 the transport method of choice to get to Canada from Australia was by boat (or is it ship?). In those days air fares were too expensive. I traveled on the P&O ship The Oriana from Auckland (New Zealand) to Vancouver with stops in Suva (Fiji) and Hawaii (USA). The trip was laid back and leisurely and although it was a nice respite from the rigors of road travel in New Zealand to this day I cannot understand why anybody would willingly imprison themselves on a luxury cruise ship. We arrived in Suva Harbor in Fiji on Thursday May 20, 1971.The sights, sounds  and smells of Suva were like something out of the past, or perhaps straight out of the pages of  a Somerset Maugham short story. After a little wander around town I headed back to the ship for the most memorable part of the day at departure time in the late afternoon. I  had met a couple of Canadian Engineers who had been on the islands for a few months and to a man they all expressed the sentiment that they had to get out of there or as they said “they would never leave . This place is paradise”. Similarly, I have a friend, Gordon Rae, here in Cranbrook, who had spent time in Fiji, and any time Fiji came up in a conversation he would get misty eyed and mutter  – “every young man should have a Fiji in his life”. Obviously the engineers on the deck of the Oriana that afternoon felt the same way. When the Fijian Police Band on the wharf played “Isa Lei” –  the traditional farewell song – there were tears running down their faces. I thought they were going to jump off the ship. If you want to hear a South Pacific farewell song at its emotional peak then there is no better way than from the deck of a ship. To this day any time I hear Isa Lei I get really choked up.  Here is the song as played by the Fijian Police Band

You can check any one of many other versions on YouTube but for me the one above is the most evocative. I can still see those Canadian engineers standing on the deck of the Oriana in the late afternoon sun with the tears running down their faces as the tune wafted up from the wharf.

The high emotional content of the song is understandable. In the old days when some one left the islands it was unlikely that they would ever return. Without a doubt it is one of the most beautiful tunes on the planet – bar none.

Here is another less traditional version that was recorded by Ry Cooder. It is good but for me it doesn’t quite match the emotional content of the Fijian Police Band

Ed Gerhard’s version is also worth a listen.

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You know you are from the Kootenays when………

(I came across this is an old email from Kim McCavenay. It is a variation on a theme – “You know you are in Saskatchewan when…….. “)

  • Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor on the highway.
  • You get angry when the only traffic light in town makes you 30 seconds late for work.
  • You measure distances in hours.
  • “Vacation” means a trip to Calgary.
  • You know lots of people have hit a deer more than once.
  • You often switch from “heat” to “A/C” in the same day.
  • You use a down comforter in the summer.
  • Your grandparents drive at 65mph through 13 feet of snow during a raging blizzard without flinching.
  • You see people wearing hunting cloths at a social event.
  • You install security lights on your house and garage and leave both unlocked.
  • You think of major food groups as deer, fish and berries
  • You carry jumper cables in your car and your girl friends knows how to use them.
  • There are seven empty cars running in the parking lot of Canadian Tire at any given time.
  • You design your kid’s Halloween costume to go over their snow suits.
  • Driving is better in winter because the potholes are full of snow.
  • You think lingerie is tube socks and flannel pajamas.
  • You know all four seasons – winter, winter, still winter and construction season.
  • It takes you three hours to go to the store for one item even when you are in a rush because you have to stop and talk to everyone in town.

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Read any good books lately? (#7) – War Stories

I have always considered myself a lucky person. I was born in the right place at the right time. I have never had to experience war, famine, pestilence, unemployment  or significant economic depression. My parents generation were not so lucky. They lived through the dirty thirties, World War II and the Korean war. I am part of a large extended family (my mum was one of fourteen children  and dad was one of three – that adds up to a lot of relatives) and what is remarkable is that not one of my many relatives were killed or physically maimed in WWII.. My dad did not go off to war but two of my uncles fought against the Japanese in New guinea. My Uncle Bill and Uncle Hector were young farm boys not even out of their teens when they were shipped off to war. I often think about that – at nineteen years of age what was I doing? Would I have been up to the challenge? Like many ex-soldiers my uncles had many demons  to deal with after the war. For years after being demobbed my Uncle Bill slept with a loaded  revolver under his pillow and often woke up screaming from horrendous night mares. That is one of the many tragedies of war. My Uncle Bill’s story is worth telling and at some future date I will do just that.The thing that is so striking is the youth of my uncles going off to war and that is a consistent theme in the following books. Namely it is the youth, some times extreme youth of the soldiers that fought and continue to fight in wars that are basically  the legacy of older inept leaders, politicians and diplomats. I know that often the intentions of the leadership are noble  but the fact remains that it is the young that fight and die and pay the price of going to war. The very act of going to war is an admission of failure of normal civilized processes. I am not particularly a military or war story story buff but I think the following books are well worth reading –

Of course, for the USA the Vietnam War was the pivotal armed conflict of the 20th Century. It put an end to the notion that America had never lost a war (they forget about the war of 1812) and has had a profound effect on political and military thinking ever since that American defeat. I am sure that, like WWII, there have been many books written about the conflict and the experiences of the soldiers and politicians who were involved in the war. Here are two books I can recommend without reservations.

CHICKEN HAWK by ROBERT MASON   More than half a million copies of Chickenhawk have been sold since it was first published in 1983. I first stumbled on this book in the Cranbrook Library and years later I found a cheap second hand copy in a used book store in Australia. Over the years I have  picked up this book and re-read it many times. Prior to reading this book I thought that helicopters and their crews were way above the fray with capabilities of getting out of trouble in an instant. I was way wrong on that score. Here is an Amazon.ca review of the book .

“Robert Mason uses a clear, conversational, fast-paced narrative to describe his experiences as an army helicopter pilot from 1965-1967, including a tour of Vietnam.
Mason always wanted to fly. Leaving college early, joining the army and becoming a helicopter pilot seemed like the way to do it. After successfully graduating from flight school, he comes to learn that the army has devised a new way to use helicopters in warfare — and Mason is drawn into the army air cavalry. Mason describes enough of how to fly a huey so you feel that you are right there with him. You experience the fatigue of war. You read as well, the senselessness and brutality of it — his gunner kills “human shields” in order to get a VC machine gunner, a platoon murders 12 prisoners as revenge for the torture and death of their comrades, a pilot is shot through the helmet yet miraculously survives, a fully laden huey lands in a minefield, and everywhere bodies are piling up faster than the army can take care of. Mason also describes his post-traumatic stress disorder, his panic attacks that start to haunt him towards the end of his tour, and his bouts with alcoholism.

There is much in Mason and his fellow soldiers that is admirable. Mason’s narrative presents a convincing portrait of the Vietnam war from a soldier’s point of view — a war Mason and many of his fellow soldiers didn’t entirely believe in, a war that didn’t match the descriptions in the press, or the pronouncements from the generals and the President.”

As an after thought, I remember a conversation I had with blues musician Mighty Joe Oliver when he was living here in Cranbrook. Although he was a Canadian, Joe volunteered and fought in Vietnam and he can remember flying in helicopters and sitting on his metal helmet to obtain at least a sliver of protection from bullets coming up though the floor of the aircraft.

THE TRASH HAULERS by Richard Herman

This is part three of the ONLY THE BRAVE TRILOGY (THE WAR BIRDS / THE FORCE OF EAGLES /  THE TRASH HAULERS). Of the three THE TRASH HAULERS  is the best. The first two are about fictitious military confrontations with Iran and, while military air craft fans will probably  enjoy the operational minutiae  embedded in the stories I think  it is the last story TRASH HAULERS that takes the prize. It is easy to believe that the author was at least a  witness to the events. ” Over an action packed 24 hours in Vietnam on January 31, 1968, three lives collide amidst war and violence.  Captain Mark Warren and his crew are trash haulers, airlifting supplies and personnel on their C-130 Hercules, the workhorse of tactical airlift. At the same time Wilson Tanner is a Dust Off pilot who risks all by flying a Huey on a rescue mission. In the jungles below at Se Pang, Colonel Tran Sang Quan comes into conflict with inept superiors as they initiate the People’s Army of Vietnam’s long-planned General Offensive and Uprising. This is the beginning of the Tet Offensive.  Both sides face more than the enemy as superior officers manouver for political advantage, and where cowardice, prejudice and treachery infiltrate the ranks – on both sides. In the air and on the land, raw courage, tenacity, and honor are the marks of humanity that deal with the wreckage of war”. The novel reeks with authenticity and is well worth the read.

Wikipedia: This is an image of one version of the C-130 Hercules. The Lockheed C-130 Hercules is a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medevac, and cargo transport aircraft. The versatile air frame   has found uses in a variety of other roles, including as a gunship for airborne assault, search and rescue, scientific research support, weather reconnaissance,aerial refueling, marine patrol, and aerial firefighting.  It is now the main tactical airlifter for many military forces worldwide. Over forty variants and versions of the Hercules, including a civilian one marketed as the Lockheed L-100,  operate in more than 60 nations. At over 60 years the  C-130 Hercules is the longest continuously produced military aircraft currently in service.

The Bell UH-1 Iroquois known as Huey. This is the machine that changed the face of war.

YOMPERS WITH THE 45 COMMANDOS IN THE FALKLAND WAR,, by Ian R. Gardiner

The Vietnam war was about winning hearts and minds and in its least toxic manifestation it was about politics. At its most toxic the Americans were an invading occupying force and, like any occupying force, they eventually had to go home. The North Vietnamese knew that and that was their ace in the hole. They only had to hang on and keep up the pressure and eventually the Americans would have to leave. It had worked with the French and in the end it worked with the Americans. Although the Americans are reluctant to admit it they lost the war and have had had to live with scars and consequences of that defeat.

The Falkland Island War is a different story in many ways. It was very much about territory. “Hearts and minds” were not a problem. The Falkland Islanders were British and the British Army was the home team. And back at home the war was popular and literally saved the government of Margaret Thatcher from possible political defeat. It was also a very short war with a major naval component and on land the British contingent was composed of professional soldiers. Not conscripts. The lines of communication were lengthy and the terrain was vastly different to the jungles of Vietnam. It was fought in cold and foggy conditions on mostly treeless moors very akin to the highlands of Scotland. The Argentinians severely under estimated Britain’s willingness to fight for the islands. Also their timing was off. Britain had been considering disbanding their amphibious assault forces and a couple of months delay by the Argentinians could have resulted in a very different outcome. In essence this was an old fashion war fought by professional soldiers on the ground without massive tactical air support.

WIKIPEDIA: The Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas), also known as the Falklands Conflict, Falklands Crisis, and the Guerra del Atlántico Sur (Spanish for “South Atlantic War“), was a ten-week war between Argentina and the United Kingdom over two  British overseas territories in the South Atlantic: the Falkland Islands  and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands. It began on Friday, 2 April 1982, when Argentina invaded  and occupied the Falkland Islands  (and, the following day, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands) in an attempt to establish the sovereignty it claimed over them.  On 5 April, the British government dispatched a naval task force to engage the Argentine Navy and Air Force before making an amphibious assault on the islands. The conflict lasted 74 days and ended with the Argentine surrender on 14 June 1982, returning the islands to British control. In total, 649 Argentine military personnel, 255 British military personnel, and three Falkland Islanders died during the hostilities.

From the Amazon review:

“Called to action on 2 April 1982, the men of 45 Commando Royal Marines assembled from around the world to sail 8,000 miles to recover the Falkland Islands from Argentine invasion. Lacking helicopters and short of food, they ‘yomped’ in appalling weather carrying overloaded rucksacks, across the roughest terrain. Yet for a month in mid-winter, they remained a cohesive fighting-fit body of men. They then fought and won the highly successful and fierce night battle for Two Sisters, a 1,000 foot high mountain which was the key to the defensive positions around Stanley.

This is a first hand story of that epic feat, but it is much more than that. The first to be written by a company commander in the Falklands War, the book gives a compelling, vivid description of the ‘yomp’ and infantry fighting, and it also offers penetrating insights into the realities of war at higher levels. It is a unique combination of descriptive writing about front-line fighting and wider reflections on the Falklands War, and conflict in general. Gritty and moving; sophisticated, reflective and funny, this book offers an abundance of timeless truths about war.

Postscript: ‘Yomping’ was the word used by the Commandos for carrying heavy loads on long marches. It caught the public’s imagination during this short but bitter campaign and epitomized the grim determination and professionalism of our troops.”

The last book is about the war of current generation It is about Afghanistan.

OUTLAW PLATOON: HEROES, RENEGADES, INFIDELS, AND THE BROTHERHOOD OF WAR IN AFGHANISTAN  by Sean Parnell

From Amazon .ca

At twenty-four years of age, U.S. Army Ranger Sean Parnell was named commander of a forty-man elite infantry platoon, the 10th Mountain Division—a unit that came to be known as the Outlaws. Tasked with rooting out Pakistan-based insurgents from a valley in the Hindu Kush, Parnell assumed they would be facing a ragtag bunch of civilians until, in May 2006, a routine patrol turned into a brutal ambush. Through sixteen months of combat, the platoon became Parnell’s family. The cost of battle was high for these men. Not all of them made it home, but for those who did, it was the love and faith they found in one another that ultimately kept them alive.

The Review “The range of emotions that Sean Parnell summons in Outlaw Platoon is stunning. A nuanced, compelling memoir . . . Parnell shows he’s a gifted, brave storyteller.” (Pittsburgh Tribune)^“Outlaw Platoon put me back on the battlefield again. It’s a heartfelt story that shows how very different people can be thrown together in combat and find a way to make it work. Parnell and the soldiers who fought beside him are all courageous heroes—real bad asses.” (Chris Kyle, author of American Sniper).Two of the most intense tales of courage under fire I own are Black Hawk Down and Lone Survivor. I now have a third, Outlaw Platoon. It’s an absolutely gripping, edge-of-your-seat ride.” (Brad Thor, author of Full Black)^“Outlaw Platoon is an utterly gripping account of what our soldiers endure on the front lines—the frustrations, the fear, the loneliness. . . Here, in these pages, are the on-the-ground realities of a war we so rarely witness on news broadcasts” (Tim O’Brien, author of The Things They Carried) Outlaw Platoon is an exceptional look into the mind of a platoon leader in Afghanistan; Captain Parnell shares his experiences of leadership, loss, and aggressive military tactics. You can really feel the bonds forged between these brothers in arms as the battle plays out” (Marcus Luttrell, author of Lone Survivor). At times, I forgot I was reading about a war as I was drawn up in the drama the same way you are when reading Krakauer’s Into Thin Air . . . This is a book of probing honesty, wrenching drama and courage.” (Doug Stanton, author of Horse Soldiers) a  soulful story of men at war . . . Outlaw Platoon shows us that the love and brotherhood forged in the fires of combat are the most formidable quaities a unit can possess.” (Steven Pressfield, author of Gates of Fire). Outlaw Platoon is expertly told by a man who braved the heat of battle time and time again. An epic story as exacting as it is suspenseful, it reveals the bravery and dedication of our armed service men and women around the world.” (Clive Cussler). This book is more than just a rip-roaring combat narrative: it is a profoundly moving exploration into the nature and evolution of the warrior bond forged in desperate, against-all-odds battles. A significant book, not to be missed.” (Jack Coughlin, author of Shooter: The Autobiography of the Top-Ranked Marine Sniper). Outlaw Platoon is the real deal. It’s a terrific tale of combat leadership that deserves to be studied by all small-unit leaders. The narrative goes beyond the battlefield to depict the maddening nature of the war and the grit of those who selflessly protect us.” (Bing West, author of No True Glory). Sean Parnell reaches past the band-of-brothers theme to a place of brutal self-awareness . . . he never flinches from a fight, nor the hard questions of a messy war.” (Kevin Sites, author of In the Hot Zone: One Man, One Year, Twenty Wars)”

For me the most telling element in the book is the incredible youth of the soldiers in this action. Why so young? and to what purpose? A foreign war in a foreign land that in reality has nothing to do with the preservation of the America’s home security. In some ways there are still echoes of that lost war in Vietnam of so many years ago. They seem to be fighting the same battles for same wrong reasons.

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Pardon my language ……….

First they came …” is a statement and poem written by Pastor  Martin Niemoller (1892- 1984) about the cowardice of German intellectuals following the Nazi’ rise to power and subsequent purging of their chosen targets, group after group. Many variations and adaptations in the spirit of the original have been published in the English language. It deals with themes of persecution, guilt and responsibility. …..   Wikipedia.

The above image, a response to Donald Trump’s targeting of Muslims is enough to make us wonder is history about to repeat itself. Let’s hope not.

FIRST THEY CAME FOR THE SOCIALISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…… BECAUSE I AM NOT A SOCIALIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE TRADE UNIONISTS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…….. BECAUSE I WAS NOT A TRADE UNIONIST.

THEN THEY CAME FOR THE JEWS, AND I DID NOT SPEAK OUT…………… BECAUSE I WAS NOT A JEW.

THEN THEY CAME FOR ME —– AND THERE WAS NO ONE LEFT TO SPEAK FOR ME.

This image was sent to me by my son who lives with his family in California  –  “Rather tumultuous weekend here in the US. Scary to see how quickly things can devolve, but also how quickly they can be resisted by an engaged populace. I am heartened to think that the left might be getting its shit together to resist Trump and his cronies.”

And now for some humour ……

I could be wrong but I think that the TV series CORNER GAS it is a work of pure genius.  To prove the point here is an insert from the box set of the six seasons of the TV show that could only have come out of Canada.

YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SASKATCHEWAN WHEN…….

  • Your idea of a traffic jam is ten cars waiting to pass a tractor and combine crew on the highway.
  • “Going South” means driving to Montana.
  • Winnipeg is “back east”.
  • You often reply: “you bet!” or “hell yes”.
  • All the festivals across the province are named after fruits, vegetables, grain or testicles.
  • You’ve gotten a “To Go” drink from the local bar.
  • You’ve stopped by the local bar to cash a cheque.
  • You actually have enough ball caps to match every shirt you own, although you still insist on wearing only one so the others don’t get dirty.
  • The bank teller asks to see some proof of identification and you point to the arm patch on your slow-pitch jacket.
  • You know what “Cow Tipping”, “Garden Raiding” and “Snipe Hunting” is.
  • You design your kids Halloween costume to fit over a snow suit.
  • You’ve gone to the grocery store on a snowmobile.
  • Driving in winter is better because the potholes are filled with snow.
  • Driving in winter is often simply a matter of staying between the fence posts.
  • You’ve attempted to set new land speed records on Saskatchewan highways.
  • You carry a roll of toilet paper in the glove box in case you have to stop and go by the road.
  • You find yourself driving over the longest bridge over the shortest body of water.
  • You discover there are more grasshoppers than people in town.
  • Your radio antenna is an old cloths hanger or a piece of bailing wire.
  • You know what a Prairie Oyster is and how to cook them.
  • You know someone who has accidentally shot himself.
  • losing the sight of the horizon, for even a few seconds, leaves you with that icky feeling of disorientation for the rest of the day.
  • You rent off-season storage space for your snowmobile on a week-by-week basis.
  • You sort your laundry into three loads: greens, whites and green-and-whites.
  • Every birthday you receive exactly the present you most desperately need: a new curling broom.
  • You catch yourself “getting down” to the radio jingles for post-emergent broad-leaf weed control.

Ron Petrie – Saskatchewan Leader Post

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And just in case that isn’t enough here is Rick Mercer’s classic comment on the weather….

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Read any good books lately? (#6) – Aroatoare

Aroatoare – “The Land of the Long White Cloud”, this is the name the early Polynesian seafarers gave New Zealand when they first colonised the two islands around  800 AD.  In the popular imagination of North Americans,  New Zealanders and Australians are grouped together. Although their accents are similar they are different people with different histories. Modern Australia came about as a collection of penal settlements. Habituated by convicts, felons, political prisoners  and their jailers who the British government dumped in a harsh forbidding land that became Australia. They were surrounded by almost inconceivable expanses of bush and lived cheek by jowl with an aboriginal population that was beyond a white man’s comprehension. The life was hard, harsh and that shaped a rather flinty race of inhabitants. New Zealand, on the other hand was never host to penal settlements of any kind. The Polynesians were there long before the white man and were basically a free people with a highly developed culture. They literally owned the land and did not take kindly to attempts to being  dispossessed and to prove a point they went to war with the whites to assert their rights. The early white settlers were free people untainted by any convict blood. Modern day New Zealanders do not hesitate to point that out. The Maori can often trace his ancestry back to the immigrants of the canoe that brought them across the sea from “Hawaii”.  The historical literature of Australia is about convicts, jailers and bush rangers and the struggle to survive. New Zealand’s stories are about fairly peaceful settlement, and apart from the Maori wars at one stage,  and peaceful interactions between whites and Maoris. I think I can safely say the New Zealand must be one of the few places colonized by white  men where the indigenous population has actually changed the white man.

The German author Sarah Lark explores the early New Zealand experiences  in a series of  “landscape novels” that have made her a best selling author in her native Germany. Fortunately the novels have been translated into English and are available from Amazon.ca on Kindle. The concept of New Zealand historical novels written by a German author would seem unlikely and yet, in execution, the three novels in the trilogy work well. They are historical romance novels that could be disparagingly described as “chicklit” but that would be too unkind. They have a lot more strength and depth than a typical “harlequin” paperback. Having traveled and lived in New Zealand, the novels have a geographical and cultural authenticity that takes me back to the time I spent there  many years ago. For an excellent read I recommend all three novels. Below is the synopsis of the three novels available from Amazon.ca.

In the Land of the Long White Cloud (In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga Book 1)

Helen Davenport, governess for a wealthy London household, longs for a family of her own—but nearing her late twenties, she knows her prospects are dim. Then she spots an advertisement seeking young women to marry New Zealand’s honorable bachelors and begins an affectionate correspondence with a gentleman farmer. When her church offers to pay her travels under an unusual arrangement, she jumps at the opportunity.

Meanwhile, not far away in Wales, beautiful and daring Gwyneira Silkham, daughter of a wealthy sheep breeder, is bored with high society. But when a mysterious New Zealand baron deals her father an unlucky blackjack hand, Gwyn’s hand in marriage is suddenly on the table. Her family is outraged, but Gwyn is thrilled to escape the life laid out for her.

The two women meet on the ship to Christchurch—Helen traveling in steerage, Gwyn first class—and become unlikely friends. When their new husbands turn out to be very different than expected, the women must help one another find the life—and love—they’d hoped for.

Set against the backdrop of colonial nineteenth-century New Zealand, In the Land of the Long White Cloud is a soaring saga of friendship, romance, and unforgettable adventure.

Song of the Spirits (In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga Book 2)

This is volume 2 in the internationally bestselling In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga.  Song of the Spirits continues the soaring saga begun with In the Land of the Long White Cloud, as the founding families of colonial New Zealand experience trials and triumphs of friendship, romance, and unforgettable adventure.

Elaine O’Keefe is the radiant grand-daughter of Gwyneira McKenzie, who made her way to New Zealand to take a wealthy sheep baron’s hand in marriage in In the Land of the Long White Cloud. Elaine inherited not only her grandmother’s red hair but also her feisty spirit, big heart, and love of the land. When William Martyn, a handsome young Irishman of questionable integrity, walks into her life, she succumbs rapidly to his charms. Only to have her heart broken when her sensual half-Maori cousin Kura Warden arrives for a visit and draws William away.

Though both young women must endure hardships and disappointments as they learn to live with the choices they make, each of them also discovers an inner resilience—and eventually finds love and happiness in new, unexpected places. Tested by the harsh realities of colonial life, both girls mature into spirited young women with a greater understanding of the challenges—and joys—of love, friendship, and family.

Call of the Kiwi (In the Land of the Long White Cloud saga Book 3)

In the exhilarating conclusion to the internationally bestselling In the Land of the Long White Cloud trilogy, the spirited Warden and McKenzie clan continues its trials—and triumphs—in New Zealand and beyond.

The great-granddaughter of Gwyneira McKenzie—who arrived in New Zealand as a naïve young bride in In the Land of the Long White Cloud—Gloria Martyn has enjoyed an idyllic childhood at Kiward Station, her family’s sprawling sheep farm in the Canterbury Plains. When her parents send word from Europe that it’s time for Gloria to become a proper “lady” by attending boarding school half a world away in England, Gloria must leave everything and everyone she loves most in the world, including her steadfast protector Jack McKenzie. Wrenched from her beloved homeland and struggling to fit in with the stifling strictures of British boarding-school life, Gloria has never felt more alone. Upon discovering that her parents have no intention of ever sending her home, Gloria takes matters into her own hands and sets off on an adventure that will change her forever.

A stirring coming-of-age tale of love, loss, endurance, shame, and redemption that takes readers from the lush plains of New Zealand’s South Island to the bloody shores of Gallipoli, across Australia’s Northern Territory and beyond, Call of the Kiwi is a profoundly satisfying conclusion to the saga that has captured readers’ hearts across the globe.

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Sarah Lark has written many novels and now currently lives with four dogs and a cat on her farm in Almería, Spain, where she cares for retired horses, plays guitar, and sings in her spare time.

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RECORDING ENGINEER RUDY VAN GELDER DIES AT THE AGE OF 92.

Rudy van Gelder- in 1988

Only a non-jazz fan would ask “Rudy who?”. Rudy was a renowned recording engineer and the principle sonic architect of the “Blue Note Sound”. A specific sound that is associated with the classic recordings of the golden jazz era of the last 50 years. He worked with many recording companies but is best known for his work with Alfred Lyon’s Blue Note Recording company. He recorded  all the jazz greats, including Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and just about every other major jazz artist of the past 50 years.

He wasn’t always a sound engineer. He trained as an optometrist and that was his “day job”. He went off to work in the morning to his optometry practice to earn his “daily bread” and after hours he spent his time recording jazz. At first in his parent’s living room, then in the iconic studio he designed and built at Engelwood Cliffs in Hackensack, New Jersey. He eventually ditched his day job and became a full time recording engineer.

Here is a Wikipedia quote: “When I first started, I was interested in improving the quality of the playback equipment I had,” Van Gelder commented in 2005; “I never was really happy with what I heard. I always assumed the records made by the big companies sounded better than what I could reproduce. So that’s how I got interested in the process. I acquired everything I could to play back audio: speakers, turntables, amplifiers”. One of Van Gelder’s friends, the baritone saxophonist Gil Melle introduced him to Alfred Lyon, a producer for Blue Note Records, in 1953. Within a few years Van Gelder was in demand by many other independent labels based around New York,  such as Prestige Records, Impulse and Savoy. Bob Weinstock, owner of Prestige, recalled in 1999, “Rudy was very much an asset. His rates were fair and he didn’t waste time. When you arrived at his studio he was prepared. His equipment was always ahead of its time and he was a genius when it came to recording”. According to a JazzTimes  article in August 2016, “jazz lore has formed the brands into a yin and yang of sorts: The Blue Note albums involved more original music, with rehearsal and the stringent, consistent oversight of Alfred Lion; Weinstock was more nonchalant, organizing what were essentially blowing sessions for some of the best musicians in jazz history”. Van Gelder said in 2012, “Alfred was rigid about how he wanted Blue Note records to sound. But Bob Weinstock of Prestige was more easygoing, so I’d experiment on his dates and use what I learned on the Blue Note sessions”. He also worked for Savoy Records in this period, among others. “To accommodate everyone, I assigned different days of the week to different labels”. Rudy was also a  pioneer in the development of live “on site” jazz recordings. In the 1950s Van Gelder also performed engineering and mastering for the classical label Vox Records. Thelonious Monk composed and recorded a tribute to Van Gelder entitled “Hackensack”.

Here is quote that I am  sure will raise the ire of fans of vinyl recordings. From 1999 on, he re-mastered the analog Blue Note recordings, that he had made several decades earlier, into 24-bit digital recordings for the Blue Note’s RVG Edition series and also a similar series of re-masters for the current owners, Concord Records, of some of the Prestige albums he had previously recorded.  He was positive about the switch from analog to digital technology. He told Audio magazine in 1995: “The biggest distorter is the LP itself. I’ve made thousands of LP masters. I used to make 17 a day, with two lathes going simultaneously, and I’m glad to see the LP go. As far as I’m concerned, good riddance. It was a constant battle to try to make that music sound the way it should. It was never any good. And if people don’t like what they hear in digital, they should blame the engineer who did it. Blame the mastering house. Blame the mixing engineer. That’s why some digital recordings sound terrible, and I’m not denying that they do, but don’t blame the medium.”

Van Gelder resided in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey where he died at his home on August 25, 2016.

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Read Any Good Books Lately (#5)? – Crime / Murder / Mysteries

The keys to a good murder / mystery novels are a good plot, interesting personalities, interesting locations, and, of course, a good writer. There are a number of authors out there that have the gift to pull all those ingredients together . The Scottish writer Ian Rankin with his dysfunctional hero John Rebus  and his stories set in Endinburgh is one such writer. He was my first real introduction to the genre. The Swedish writer Henny Mankell  (1948-2015) who chose Yarstad in southern Sweden as a location for his, once again dysfunctional hero Kurt Wallander. The novels were so successful that the BBC turned them into a mini-series staring starring Kenneth Branagh. Another Swedish writer of note is Steig Larsen  who, in the astonishingly successful Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, created the memorable characters Lisbeth Salander and Michael Blomkvist. All novels were published posthumously and sold 80 million copies. They ended up as highly successful movies in Swedish and English. Maybe we should add Michael Genelin  to the list with his five Jana Matinova  novels . Apart from his writing skills he seems to have the necessary legal background needed to bring an air of authenticity to the plots.

Check his resume:

Michael Genelin (born January 6, 1950) is an American author and former Los Angeles Head Deputy District Attorney in the Hardcore Gang Division. Genelin has been involved around the world in Penal Code reform, Anti-Corruption reform in government, including legislative drafting, Ethics Establishment and Training, Freedom of Information laws, Witness Protection Practices, Trial Advocacy, Investigation and Trial of Cases, particularly homicides, Judicial Procedures, Reform and Creation of Evidence Procedures, Human Resources, all aspects of training, including Anti-Corruption Investigation and Prosecution and the general operations of law enforcement/prosecution/criminal court programs, Investigative Journalism Training, and Interactive Governmental Communications. He has written five novels, mostly set in central Europe, and centered around investigations conducted by Jana Matinova.

  • Siren of the Waters (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2008)

Jana Matinova entered the Czechoslovak police force as young woman, married an actor, and became a mother. The Communist regime destroyed her husband, their love for one another, and her daughter’s respect for her. But she has never stopped being a seeker of justice.

Now, she has risen to the rank of commander in the Slovak police force and is based in the capital, Bratislava, a crossroads of central Europe. She liaises with colleagues across the continent to track a master criminal whose crimes include extortion, murder, kidnapping, and the operation of a vast human trafficking network.

This investigation takes her from Kiev in Ukraine to the headquarters of the European Community in Strasbourg, France; from Vienna to Nice during the Carnival, as she searches for a ruthless killer and the beautiful young Russian woman he is determined to either capture or destroy.

  • Dark Dreams (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2009)

Prudent Jana and impetuous Sofia were best friends when they were schoolmates. One day Sofia approached a man in a car when she shouldn’t have and ended up being raped by a nefarious Communist Party bigwig. Jana pursued the culprit’s car, identified him, and vowed someday to bring him to justice.

Now Jana is a commander in the Slovak police force and Sofia, having made her name as a reformer, is a member of Parliament. Jana has fallen in love with an upright government prosecutor and Sofia is carrying on a notorious affair with a suave, married fellow MP.

One day Jana finds an enormous diamond dangling from a string fixed to the ceiling of the living room of her house. Was it put there as a present? Or, more likely, to entrap her? Where did this magnificent jewel come from? And why was it left for her to find? The answer leads Jana across Europe to unravel a criminal conspiracy involving multiple murders which has entangled her hapless, impulsive friend, Sofia, in its web, and ultimately to the criminal mastermind, the onetime Communist Party boss.

  • The Magician’s Accomplice (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2010)

Devastated by her lover’s death in an explosion—on the same day an indigent student was shot and killed in sleepy Bratislava—Jana is transferred to The Hague, headquarters of the international police force Europol. On the flight she encounters a retired magician, the dead student’s uncle, who is determined to help Jana investigate his nephew’s death. And his help is indeed needed as Jana faces an international criminal conspiracy emanating from Europol itself.

  • Requiem For A Gypsy (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (July 1, 2011)

When the wife of one of Slovakia’s most prominent businessmen is killed in a very public assassination, it looks like the bullets were meant for her husband. But could she have been the primary target? Commander Jana Matinova must push through her own government’s secretiveness and intransigence to discover what connects the murder of Klara Boganova to an anonymous man run down in Paris, a dead Turk with an ice pick in his eye, and an international network of bank accounts linking back to the Second World War.

  • For the Dignified Dead (A Commander Jana Matinova Investigation) (Nov. 3, 2015)

When the wife of one of Slovakia’s most prominent businessmen is killed in a very public assassination, it looks like the bullets were meant for her husband. But, could she have been the primary target? Commander Jana Matinova must push through her own government’s secretiveness and intransigence to discover what connects the murder of Klara Boganova to an anonymous man run down in Paris, a dead Turk with an ice pick in his eye, and an international network of bank accounts linking back to the Second World War.

So that’s Amazon.ca basic synopsis of the series.

One of my criteria for reading enjoyment is how long it takes me to actually read the material. The shorter the time it takes me to read then, obviously, the more I have enjoyed the book(s). It doesn’t necessarily follow that they are great literature, just that I enjoyed reading them. That is the case with this series of novels. I read the entire series in under three weeks – turned lots of pages and missed out on some sleep. I found the plots were good, although, my wife only read the first and the last in the series and she felt that the plots could be tighter. There were interesting personalities spread through out the stories. They included the chief protagonist Jana, her boss, her associates and a super villain that drifted in out of a couple in the series. The locations were places that I felt had been under represented in recent fiction. Most of the action takes place in Eastern and Central Europe including  Czechoslovakia and the two member republics, then Switzerland, Austria, Hungry, Slovenia and France with side trips to the Ukraine and Germany.  Judging by the geographic detail outlined in the novels I can only assume that the author is very familiar with the locales. Although there is a chronology of events that suggest that the novels should be read in sequence, it is possible to read the them as stand alone stories.

All in all, if you are into Crime / Murder / Mystery novels then I suspect you will enjoy them as much as I did.

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WILL THIS TECHNOLOGY BE A GAME CHANGER?

Water is the stuff of life. Without water there is no life. When we send probes to distant planets the first thing on the search list is water. Here on planet earth fresh water resources are being stretched to the limit. Deserts are expanding, under ground aquifers are becoming seriously depleted and droughts are becoming more and more  pronounced.  Agriculture in a significant part of the world is threatened. As a result the spectre of war and wide spread famine in the not to distant future is very real. What if there a technology that could increase our water resources? It just so happens that there is at least one technical solution out there. This is a reprint of an article in Scientific America ……….

ISRAEL PROVES THE DESALINATION ERA IS HERE

One of the driest countries on Earth now makes more freshwater than it needs

By Rowan Jacobsen, Ensia on July 29, 2016

Ashkelon-21

Askelon Desalination Plant in Israel

July 19, 2016 — Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

“Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

We are standing above the new Sorek desalination plant, the largest reverse-osmosis desal facility in the world, and we are staring at Israel’s salvation. Just a few years ago, in the depths of its worst drought in at least 900 years, Israel was running out of water. Now it has a surplus. That remarkable turnaround was accomplished through national campaigns to conserve and re-use Israel’s meagre water resources, but the biggest impact came from a new wave of desalination plants.

Bar-Zeev, who recently joined Israel’s Zuckerberg Institute for Water Research after completing his post-doc work at Yale University, is an expert on biofouling, which has always been an Achilles’ heel of desalination and one of the reasons it has been considered a last resort. Desal works by pushing saltwater into membranes containing microscopic pores. The water gets through, while the larger salt molecules are left behind. But microorganisms in seawater quickly colonize the membranes and block the pores, and controlling them requires periodic costly and chemical-intensive cleaning. But Bar-Zeev and colleagues developed a chemical free system using porous lava stone to capture the microorganisms before they reach the membranes. It’s just one of many breakthroughs in membrane technology that have made desalination much more efficient. Israel now gets 55 percent of its domestic water from desalination, and that has helped to turn one of the world’s driest countries into the unlikeliest of water giants.

Driven by necessity, Israel is learning to squeeze more out of a drop of water than any country on Earth, and much of that learning is happening at the Zuckerberg Institute, where researchers have pioneered new techniques in drip irrigation, water treatment and desalination. They have developed resilient well systems for African villages and biological digesters than can halve the water usage of most homes.

The institute’s original mission was to improve life in Israel’s bone-dry Negev Desert, but the lessons look increasingly applicable to the entire Fertile Crescent. “The Middle East is drying up,” says Osnat Gillor, a professor at the Zuckerberg Institute who studies the use of recycled wastewater on crops. “The only country that isn’t suffering acute water stress is Israel.”

That water stress has been a major factor in the turmoil tearing apart the Middle East, but Bar-Zeev believes that Israel’s solutions can help its parched neighbors, too — and in the process, bring together old enemies in common cause.

Bar-Zeev acknowledges that water will likely be a source of conflict in the Middle East in the future. “But I believe water can be a bridge, through joint ventures,” he says. “And one of those ventures is desalination.

Driven to Desperation

In 2008, Israel teetered on the edge of catastrophe. A decade-long drought had scorched the Fertile Crescent, and Israel’s largest source of freshwater, the Sea of Galilee, had dropped to within inches of the “black line” at which irreversible salt infiltration would flood the lake and ruin it forever. Water restrictions were imposed, and many farmers lost a year’s crops

Their counterparts in Syria fared much worse. As the drought intensified and the water table plunged, Syria’s farmers chased it, drilling wells 100, 200, then 500 meters (300, 700, then 1,600 feet) down in a literal race to the bottom. Eventually, the wells ran dry and Syria’s farmland collapsed in an epic dust storm. More than a million farmers joined massive shantytowns on the outskirts of Aleppo, Homs, Damascus and other cities in a futile attempt to find work and purpose.

And that, according to the authors of “Climate Change in the Fertile Crescent and Implications of the Recent Syrian Drought,” a 2015 paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the tinder that burned Syria to the ground. “The rapidly growing urban peripheries of Syria,” they wrote, “marked by illegal settlements, overcrowding, poor infrastructure, unemployment, and crime, were neglected by the Assad government and became the heart of the developing unrest.”

Similar stories are playing out across the Middle East, where drought and agricultural collapse have produced a lost generation with no prospects and simmering resentments. Iran, Iraq and Jordan all face water catastrophes. Water is driving the entire region to desperate acts.

More Water Than Needs

Except Israel. Amazingly, Israel has more water than it needs. The turnaround started in 2007, when low-flow toilets and showerheads were installed nationwide and the national water authority built innovative water treatment systems that recapture 86 percent of the water that goes down the drain and use it for irrigation — vastly more than the second-most-efficient country in the world, Spain, which recycles 19 percent.

But even with those measures, Israel still needed about 1.9 billion cubic meters (2.5 billion cubic yards) of freshwater per year and was getting just 1.4 billion cubic meters (1.8 billion cubic yards) from natural sources. That 500-million-cubic-meter (650-million-cubic-yard) shortfall was why the Sea of Galilee was draining like an unplugged tub and why the country was about to lose its farms.

Enter desalination. The Ashkelon plant, in 2005, provided 127 million cubic meters (166 million cubic yards) of water. Hadera, in 2009, put out another 140 million cubic meters (183 million cubic yards). And now Sorek, 150 million cubic meters (196 million cubic yards). All told, desal plants can provide some 600 million cubic meters (785 million cubic yards) of water a year, and more are on the way.

The Sea of Galilee is fuller. Israel’s farms are thriving. And the country faces a previously unfathomable question: What to do with its extra water?

Water Diplomacy

Inside Sorek, 50,000 membranes enclosed in vertical white cylinders, each 4 feet high and 16 inches wide, are whirring like jet engines. The whole thing feels like a throbbing spaceship about to blast off. The cylinders contain sheets of plastic membranes wrapped around a central pipe, and the membranes are stippled with pores less than a hundredth the diameter of a human hair. Water shoots into the cylinders at a pressure of 70 atmospheres and is pushed through the membranes, while the remaining brine is returned to the sea.

Desalination used to be an expensive energy hog, but the kind of advanced technologies being employed at Sorek have been a game changer. Water produced by desalination costs just a third of what it did in the 1990s. Sorek can produce a thousand liters of drinking water for 58 cents. Israeli households pay about US$30 a month for their water — similar to households in most U.S. cities, and far less than Las Vegas (US$47) or Los Angeles (US$58).

The International Desalination Association claims that 300 million people get water from desalination, and that number is quickly rising. IDE, the Israeli company that built Ashkelon, Hadera and Sorek, recently finished the Carlsbad desalination plant in Southern California, a close cousin of its Israel plants, and it has many more in the works. Worldwide, the equivalent of six additional Sorek plants are coming online every year. The desalination era is here.

What excites Bar-Zeev the most is the opportunity for water diplomacy. Israel supplies the West Bank with water, as required by the 1995 Oslo II Accords, but the Palestinians still receive far less than they need. Water has been entangled with other negotiations in the ill-fated peace process, but now that more is at hand, many observers see the opportunity to depoliticize it. Bar-Zeev has ambitious plans for a Water Knows No Boundaries conference in 2018, which will bring together water scientists from Egypt, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank and Gaza for a meeting of the minds.

Even more ambitious is the US$900 million  Red Sea-Dead Sea Canal, a joint venture between Israel and Jordan to build a large desalination plant on the Red Sea, where they share a border, and divide the water among Israelis, Jordanians and the Palestinians. The brine discharge from the plant will be piped 100 miles north through Jordan to replenish the Dead Sea, which has been dropping a meter per year since the two countries began diverting the only river that feeds it in the 1960s. By 2020, these old foes will be drinking from the same tap.

On the far end of the Sorek plant, Bar-Zeev and I get to share a tap as well. Branching off from the main line where the Sorek water enters the Israeli grid is a simple spigot, a paper cup dispenser beside it. I open the tap and drink cup after cup of what was the Mediterranean Sea 40 minutes ago. It tastes cold, clear and miraculous.

The contrasts couldn’t be starker. A few miles from here, water disappeared and civilization crumbled. Here, a galvanized civilization created water from nothingness. As Bar-Zeev and I drink deep, and the climate sizzles, I wonder which of these stories will be the exception, and which the rule.

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Here is a re-print of another article

AIDED BY THE SEA, ISRAEL OVERCOMES AN OLD FOE: DROUGHT

editor Wednesday 3 June 2015
 From:

By Isabel Kershner.. JERUSALEM — At the peak of the drought, Shabi Zvieli, an Israeli gardener, feared for his livelihood. A hefty tax was placed on excessive household water consumption, penalizing families with lawns, swimming pools or leaky pipes. So many of Mr. Zvieli’s clients went over to synthetic grass and swapped their seasonal blooms for hardy, indigenous plants more suited to a semiarid climate. “I worried about where gardening was going,” said Mr. Zvieli, 56, who has tended people’s yards for about 25 years.

Across the country, Israelis were told to cut their shower time by two minutes. Washing cars with hoses was outlawed and those few wealthy enough to absorb the cost of maintaining a lawn were permitted to water it only at night.

“We were in a situation where we were very, very close to someone opening a tap somewhere in the country and no water would come out,” said Uri Schor, the spokesman and public education director of the government’s Water Authority.

But that was about six years ago. Today, there is plenty of water in Israel. A lighter version of an old “Israel is drying up” campaign has been dusted off to advertise baby diapers. “The fear has gone,” said Mr. Zvieli, whose customers have gone back to planting flowers.

As California and other western areas of the United States grapple with an extreme drought, a revolution has taken place here. A major national effort to desalinate Mediterranean seawater and to recycle wastewater has provided the country with enough water for all its needs, even during severe droughts. More than 50 percent of the water for Israeli households, agriculture and industry is now artificially produced.

During the drought years, farmers at Ramat Rachel, a kibbutz on the southern outskirts of Jerusalem, took water-economizing measures like uprooting old apple orchards a few years before their time. With the new plenty, water allocations for Israeli farmers that had been slashed have been raised again, though the price has also gone up.

desalination_plants

Israeli desalination plants

“Now there is no problem of water,” said Shaul Ben-Dov, an agronomist at Ramat Rachel. “The price is higher, but we can live a normal life in a country that is half desert.”

With its part-Mediterranean, part-desert climate, Israel had suffered from chronic shortages and exploitation of its natural water resources for decades.

The natural fresh water at Israel’s disposal in an average year does not cover its total use of roughly 525 billion gallons. The demand for potable water is projected to rise to 515 billion gallons by 2030, from 317 billion gallons this year.

The turnaround came with a seven-year drought, one of the most severe to hit modern Israel, that began in 2005 and peaked in the winter of 2008 to 2009. The country’s main natural water sources — the Sea of Galilee in the north and the mountain and coastal aquifers — were severely depleted, threatening a potentially irreversible deterioration of the water quality.

Measures to increase the supply and reduce the demand were accelerated, overseen by the Water Authority, a powerful interministerial agency established in 2007.

Desalination emerged as one focus of the government’s efforts, with four major plants going into operation over the past decade. A fifth one should be ready to operate within months. Together, they will produce a total of more than 130 billion gallons of potable water a year, with a goal of 200 billion gallons by 2020.

Israel has, in the meantime, become the world leader in recycling and reusing wastewater for agriculture. It treats 86 percent of its domestic wastewater and recycles it for agricultural use — about 55 percent of the total water used for agriculture. Spain is second to Israel, recycling 17 percent of its effluent, while the United States recycles just 1 percent, according to Water Authority data.

Before the establishment of the Water Authority, various ministries were responsible for different aspects of the water issue, each with its own interests and lobbies.

“There was a lot of hydro-politics,” said Eli Feinerman of the faculty of agriculture, food and environment at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who served for years as a public representative on the authority’s council. “The right hand did not know what the left was doing.”

The Israeli government began by making huge cuts in the annual water quotas for farmers, ending decades of extravagant overuse of heavily subsidized water for agriculture.

The tax for surplus household use was dropped at the end of 2009 and a two-tiered tariff system was introduced. Regular household water use is now subsidized by a slightly higher rate paid by those who consume more than the basic allotment.

Water Authority representatives went house to house offering to fit free devices on shower heads and taps that inject air into the water stream, saving about a third of the water used while still giving the impression of a strong flow.

Officials say that wiser use of water has led to a reduction in household consumption of up to 18 percent in recent years.

And instead of the municipal authorities being responsible for the maintenance of city pipe networks, local corporations have been formed. The money collected for water is reinvested in the infrastructure.

Mekorot, the national water company, built the national water carrier 50 years ago, a system for transporting water from the Sea of Galilee in the north through the heavily populated center to the arid south. Now it is building new infrastructure to carry water west to east, from the Mediterranean coast inland.

In the parched Middle East, water also has strategic implications. Struggles between Israel and its Arab neighbors over water rights in the Jordan River basin contributed to tensions leading to the 1967 Middle East war.

Israel, which shares the mountain aquifer with the West Bank, says it provides the Palestinians with more water than it is obliged to under the existing peace accords. The Palestinians say it is not enough and too expensive. A new era of water generosity could help foster relations with the Palestinians and with Jordan.

The Sorek desalination plant rises out of the sandy ground about nine miles south of Tel Aviv. Said to be  the largest plant of its type in the world, it produces 40 billion gallons of potable water a year, enough for about a sixth of Israel’s roughly eight million citizens.

Miriam Faigon, the director of the solutions department at IDE Technologies, the Israeli company that built three of the plants along the Mediterranean, said that the company had cut energy levels and costs with new technologies and a variety of practical methods.

Under a complex arrangement, the plants will be transferred to state ownership after 25 years. For now, the state buys Sorek’s desalinated water for a relatively cheap 58 cents a cubic meter — more than free rainwater, Ms. Faigon acknowledged, “but that’s only if you have it.”

Israeli environmentalists say the rush to desalination has partly come at the expense of alternatives like treating natural water reserves that have become polluted by industry, particularly the military industries in the coastal plain.

“We definitely felt that Israel did need to move toward desalination,” said Sarit Caspi-Oron, a water expert at the non-government Israel Union for Environmental Defense. “But it is a question of how much, and of priorities. Our first priority was conservation and treating and reclaiming our water sources.”

Some environmentalists also say that the open-ocean intake method used by Israel’s desalination plants, in line with local regulations, as opposed to subsurface intakes, has a potentially destructive effect on sea life, sucking in billions of fish eggs and larvae.

But Boaz Mayzel, a marine biologist at the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, said that the effects were not yet known and would have to be checked over time.

Some Israelis are cynical about the water revolution. Tsur Shezaf, an Israeli journalist and the owner of a farm that produces wine and olives in the southern Negev, argues that desalination is essentially a privatization of Israel’s water supply that benefits a few tycoons, while recycling for agriculture allows the state to sell the same water twice.

Mr. Shezaf plants his vines in a way that maximizes the use of natural floodwaters in the area, as in ancient times, and irrigates the rest of the year with a mix of desalinated water and fresh water. He prefers to avoid the cheaper recycled water, he says, because, “You don’t know exactly what you are getting.”

But experts say that the wastewater from Israel’s densely populated Tel Aviv area is treated to such a high level that no harm would come to anyone who accidentally drank it.

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So that’s one solution to the problem. Waiting in the wings, admittedly a long way off centre stage, is the prospect of unlimited freshwater as a by-product of Thorium based Nuclear Reactors. When fully developed these radio-active waste neutral (in fact they will burn radio-active waste) plants will produce almost unlimited energy with fresh water as a by product. See, its not all gloom and doom. See the my past blog entry on the subject of Thorium based reactors

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